Renovating, Innovative, and Charming are three bold words that usually describe character, they are also words that could be used to describe the demeanor and style of Grammy Award Nominee, Calvin Richardson. The singer/songwriter, appropriately known as the Prince of Soul, has put in the work over the last decade releasing hits such as “Keep On Pushin’” and “You’re So Amazing.” Now, after a short break he’s back with his recently released sixth studio album I Am Calvin. Continuing his soulful brand of music Calvin has been honing the sound of this album over the past few years with producers such as Eric Benét and has released what one could call a passion piece, sure to please. In that time, the North Carolina native has also been working on a couple of other projects, one being a syndicated radio show. He recently set aside some time to chat with us all about it. We go one-on-one with the prince…
Parlé Magazine: So Calvin, its been about four years of a hiatus since music has last seen you. What have you been up to?
Calvin Richardson: Well you know, I was doing a lot of performing. I was in the studio as well just being creative, but mostly I was traveling around just staying active. Mostly on the chitlin’ circuit. Just doing a lot of shows and nurturing my fan base.
Parlé: I hear that a lot of artists use that small town method of performing to recharge and get re-inspired. Was that the case for you?
Calvin Richardson: I mean its always inspiring for me to get out and you know take the music to the people. It’s good, it’s like food for your soul to have that interaction with your fan base. You also have the opportunity to grow your music as well you know.
Parlé: I assume that growth is what helped spawn your latest album I Am Calvin, can you tell me more about it?Calvin Richardson: Well I think all of my albums up to this and every thing I’ve done in between was leading me up to do another album, to do this album. As far as getting it ready I signed with Jordan House Records and worked with Eric Benét very closely on this album. Eric and I basically came up with all of the original contents and all of the original songs, along with Demonte Posey and Jonathan Richmond, and we just put our heads together to make it happen. Eric knew the kind of artist that I am and Demonte’s just a great producer that understands the sound of music and what was relevant at the time that we started working on the album and after we had a meeting and said that this is what we want to do, we set out to do it.
Parlé: You mentioned your other albums prepped you to bring this creation to light, but what would you say separates this one from your previous work?
Calvin Richardson: I mean its a different sound but you know I’m a soul singer so you will get that same soul element because that’s the kind of singer that I am. I tried some different things vocally though, with Eric being the executive producer he encouraged me to do different things and to use different sides of my voice. My higher registers and a little bit more of my falsetto and you know think the music is just a little bit more R&B than Soulful R&B.
Parlé: Speaking of R&B the genre seems to be making a resurgence into mainstream again as of late, as an artist did this affect your decision to release I Am Calvin now?
Calvin Richardson: I don’t think R&B ever left. There’s been too many artists that are R&B that have been making good music all through the years but I think the popularity of it came down somewhat, but its alive and well. I could name quite a few that have held it down for years past like Tank is out there right now, and you have Avery Sunshine, Dave Holister, Anthony Hamilton and myself but I think R&B has been in pretty good hands. The timing was just right for me.
Parlé: As a fan of the genre I would have to agree with you. And no one would know more about R&B than Eric Benét, how was it having him over see this new album?
Calvin Richardson: It was a great thing for me to work with him, Eric being an enormous talent himself. He’s a phenomenal singer and a great writer who’s had an excellent career and I’ve always been a fan of his sound and his ability to articulate a song. So not only being able to work with him but being able to sing with Eric and have his wealth of knowledge at my disposal is an amazing opportunity for me.
Parlé: Touching back on your album, I can hear the passion in the work you put into it. Do you have any singles you’re just as passionate about?
Calvin Richardson: I mean theres a few songs on there but I don’t know if I could say there’s a favorite because it changes so much. “Dark Side of Love” is one, Eric wrote that entire song. You know, its just a real retro, bluesy, throwback type of song. The kind you would have found in a Ray Charles type of production back in the 60s, but it still feels like today. “Before This Moment Leaves” is another song that we wrote together along with Demonte that’s only like a 1:40 but a lot of people wish it was longer, that’s one of my favorites as well.
Parlé: Touching on the Ray Charles song you’ve been known to sample or be inspired by older artists sounds, will there be any others like it?
Calvin Richardson: Absolutely. My sound is definitely influenced by those retro artists from back in the day. I did a remake El Debarge’s “All This Love” and also a remake of Bobby Blue Bland’s “I’ll Take Care of You.” You can definitely hear the influence of my formative years in my sound, it just hasn’t changed because you know I am… I am Calvin. (Laughs)
Parlé: Right! (laughs) Now I hear Calvin doesn’t just like retro music but retro things in general. What is it that draws you to the vintage side of life?
Calvin Richardson: I mean man, I think it’s the history. When it comes to music its just the soul. Just something about it that just moves you more than contemporary stuff. My moms explanation of it was, “What comes from the heart goes to the heart” and touches you in a certain way and like I said when it comes to old things there’s just something about it. I like old cars and and restoring them back to new because I just have a love for it. I can’t really explain it. If I buy a house I’d buy an older house, I don’t want a newer house, I’d rather restore it and take it to the next level or at least bring it back what it once was.
Parlé: I know what you mean, there’s character in some older pieces of work.
Calvin Richardson: Character, character! Absolutely
Parlé: And as perfect segway for bringing old things back to life. Let’s talk about your new project, which I understand is a radio show. Can you tell me about how this came about?
Calvin Richardson: (Laughs)Well as far as me being a radio host or having a show that wasn’t really on my radar but obviously I’ve had a relationship just being in the business. When I was living in Charlotte I became good friends with a few radio programmers in the business and I sat in on a show and got a feel for it and kind of liked it. This particular show though I wasn’t looking for, they came looking for me. My radio guy Ken Wilson called me one day and told me that he got a call from someone that had a radio show that was syndicated and they wanted to know if I would be interested in taking over that show. It was called Southern Soul Party, I wasn’t interested in doing a southern soul party but I told them if they change it to Calvin Richardson’s Soul Party then that that’s something we can talk about. And so it just kind of fell in my lap and I like it.
Parlé: Soul is right up your alley, but what will you bring thats different from southern soul?
Calvin Richardson: You know, I’ll play from D’angelo and Maxwell to R. Kelly. Some of your current artists as well as older artist like Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Bobby Womack, Bobby Blue Bland, Mary J. Blige, Avery Sunshine it’s just good soul music. You probably wouldn’t hear something like Trey Songz in my show. Though he has some really good songs I wouldn’t classify him as soul.
Parlé: Sounds like the perfect endeavor for you and I’m sure people can’t wait to hear this. Will it be a nationally syndicated show?
Calvin Richardson: We working on that. I think right now its a good thing that we are just in certain markets and going to branch out but you know I’m just cutting my teeth right now, we’ll keep improving and making it better and better so I can really compete. Bring the show to the level where I can compete with the other syndicated shows.
Parlé: It’s good to see you branch out especially after being in the music industry over a decade. But what keeps you moving and shaking and behind the scenes or inspires you to keep working?
Calvin Richardson: Life man. Living. Just encountering and interacting with people on a day to day basis really inspires me to write songs. But also music man, I love music. Other artist inspire me and when I hear a songs it makes me think creatively about another song or something that hasn’t been created yet. It just makes me feel things and its supposed to make you feel things and being an artist I think that even when I’m 60 or 70 or 80 I think if I hear something I’ll still be inspired to work. Not that I’ll be too inspired to be running out here on the road, (laughs) but to do this.
Parlé: And in the spirit of growing and working are there any other projects you’ve been working on aside from your album and the radio show?
Calvin Richardson: Well I’m working on starting a music camp in the state of Louisiana in my city, Baton Rouge, that’s going to be called Calvin’s Way. It will be a camp where I mentor younger aspiring artist and teach them how I learned what I know and how to navigate their way through the business if they really want to be a serious recording artist. You know they are taking music out a lot of the schools now so I’ll have music instructors for the camp and vocal coaches. We’ll have media coaches also to teach them how to talk to the media. I guess you can call it artist development. Back in the day they used to have that but now they don’t do it as much as I think is needed. So that’s one of the things that I’m working on that I think is very important.
Parlé: That sounds great. There are a lot of talented people in the world that just need some guidance.
Calvin Richardson: Yeah man, you have sports figures who make their success and then go and open up football or basketball camps or even filmmakers and film camps but no one in the music business really gives back to that level. I think its important because today’s aspiring artists are tomorrow’s super stars.
Parlé: Spoken like a true star yourself. Thanks for taking the time out to share these projects with us.
Calvin Richardson: Thanks for even being interested in talking to me man.
For more on Calvin and his recently released album I Am Calvin check out his website below.